So, this simplistic, poorly written tripe by David Brooks has been making the rounds among humanists lately. The humanities are rightfully concerned about being waning relics in our modern world; academics who study all forms of art constantly have to defend their existence, have to convince the funding forces that be that they are not obsolete. This is sad. Sadder still would be to read the column linked above and propagate it as an endorsement of the humanities. It’s awful. Get off my side, Brooks!
First, there is that cringe-worthy “Big Shaggy” thing. Clearly, his knowledge of Herodotus has not endowed him with a “wealth of analogies,” at least none that aren’t laughable. Plus we already have a word for this thing he’s trying to get at, it’s called the Id. Plus stating that no discipline outside the humanities tries to explain human drives is patently ridiculous, as is his observation that the humanities have no “system of thought.” Plus his assertion that the humanities are useful because they help us be more effective corporate whores makes me want to eat his smug face. Personally, I think there is no better way to live than “removed from the market.” It makes it easier to sleep at night.
Brooks’s blather is not an endorsement. Rather it is symptomatic of the pervasive devaluation of the arts & humanities in our hypercapitalist society–a society so bloody afraid of anything that cannot be handily productized. The tone of his whole column made me feel as if I were being offered a pity fuck by the most repellent douche bag imaginable. Yuck–no thank you, sir, I do not need your validation, and your advances make me need to take a shower. But, before I go crouch weeping in a hissing blast of scalding water, gently rocking and mumbling to myself that I must get clean–when will I ever get clean?–I will tell you what the arts & humanities are for, and why we need them. It’s very simple:
The arts & humanities give us the inner resources not to get swept up by the unremitting shitstorm of lies inflicted on us by all forms of media and advertising. They remind us that life is not money, and life is not products. When the arts & humanities die, so will we. That is all.